Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Prayer during COVID-19 Pandemic


Lord, as we enter into this time of prayer, teach us to be thankful. Despite trying times, there is much for which to be grateful. We thank you, Lord, for our many blessings.

We thank you for this time together, for the opportunity to gather virtually to pray. We thank you for this opportunity of renewal – an involuntary reset.

We thank you for being our rock, foundation, and refuge, for being our God who is faithful in times of abundance as well as our times of need. We thank you for the reminder that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. We thank you for caring neighbors, families and friends, and our renewed awareness of their importance in our lives.

We thank you for showing the world that while this strain of coronavirus is new, the inadequate availability of healthcare for all, the systemic inequities in marginalized communities, the food deserts in our communities, and the structural racism the virus exposes are nothing new. We thank you for the opportunity as a Habitat family to be your committed, faithful servants and to serve our part in righting these wrongs. We thank you for the opportunity and privilege to serve others in need of shelter, and for commitment and passion of our donors and volunteers who also serve in this work.

We thank you for allowing us to see the beauty in the bellow of the blast. We are grateful for the privilege granted to those of us who can spend more time with family, ourselves, walking, talking with extended family and friends, making connections with each other, and to You. We thank you for the helpers -- your Earthly Angels who are helping others, uplifting spirits, and who may be putting their own health at risk to serve others. We thank you for the many heroes, touching lives and saving lives without adulation.  We thank you for our ability to gather in our separate places together today. We thank you for our health, and for that of our families.

Lord, we also know that we need you and rely on you like the branches rely on the vine. We come to you as your children in prayer, asking for your blessings, healing, and strength. Grant us wisdom and courage, the ability to discern your direction, and the heart to serve your will. You are a God of Justice, Lord, and we ask you show us how to serve in bringing justice to all the nations.

God, show us how to love, serve and show kindness to:
·       those in need of shelter,
·       People in Habitat Affiliates, National Organizations and partner organizations,
·       Habitat for Humanity International co-workers,
·       members of our households,
·       our neighbors

Lord, help us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Help to clothe us with Love. Help us to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

Lord, we pray for all of those who have been affected by this pandemic, for families and communities impacted by loss of work and income. We pray for:

·     Wisdom – for our leaders, for government and for health care leaders making difficult decisions.
·     We pray for Protection and healing –for the Elderly, sick, those most susceptible to disease, and for families that can't visit them. We pray for Health care workers, police, first responders, and service providers on front lines
·     And we pray for Hope & encouragement – those who are fearful, alone, anxious.


As we go forward in this first week of the Easter Season, help us as a people to reflect on our lives, our society, and to create a world that is better – more like your Kingdom on Earth.
May we heed the words of Clarence Jordan:

"The proof that God raised Jesus from the dead is not the empty tomb, but the full hearts of his transformed disciples. The crowning evidence that he lives is not a vacant grave, but a spirit-filled fellowship. Not a rolled-away stone, but a carried-away church." – Let us be the “carried-away Church” as we pray that others may see the Resurrected Christ in us.

In thy Holy name we pray,

AMEN.

[Prayer given on 4/14/2020 for Habitat International's morning time of reflection. Edited to remove personal prayer requests.]


x

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Lentiest Lent



Christians around the world often given up things for Lent. But going into this year’s Lenten Season, who knew we would be required to give up so much?

We are living in strange times, isolating ourselves to remain safe from a potentially deadly virus, watching as restaurants and businesses close and people lose jobs, and embracing technology to remain close in times when we are required to be physically distant.

In the Gospel of Mark (Mark 10: 32-34), Jesus tells the disciples for the third time that he will be killed. He says, “We are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Jesus is telling his disciples, “Look folks, we’ve got some rough times ahead in Jerusalem. This ain’t going to be pretty.”

Over and over again, throughout the Bible, we are told “Don’t be afraid” and “Do not worry.” A few examples:

 “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh 1:5,9:)

“Be strong and bold; have no Fear, because it is I the Lord your God who goes with you; God will not fail you or forsake you.”  (Deuteronomy 31:6)

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.’” (Luke 12:22-23)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; Believe also in me.” (John 14:1)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

It is so hard not to worry and to be afraid in the midst of all that is going on around us. One of my favorite movie quotes is from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It strikes me as a clear truth: “Everything will be alright in the end, so if it is not alright, it is not the end.”

Jesus told the disciples he would be mocked and spit upon, flogged, and killed. Yet he knew, as do we, how that story ends. “Three days later he will rise.” Jesus continued into Jerusalem, knowing the anguish he would face, yet he proceeded unafraid, as he knew the end of the Easter story – the Glory of Resurrection.

How much misery and suffering is caused by our own fears – our fears of other people, our fears of the unknown. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” As we continue past Easter into an uncertain future, may we know that while there will be rough roads ahead, we, too, know how the ultimate story ends, and everything will be alright. As writer Corrie ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

[Written for Rehoboth United Methodist Church Newsletter, April 2020] 







Friday, March 22, 2019

My Lenten devotional for St. Mark, published today:


Friday, August 25, 2017

August article for Rehoboth United Methodist Church Newsletter


A Presbyterian minister and one of my favorite theologians, Frederick Buechner, said “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
In my ministry with Habitat for Humanity, I have found that place. I truly believe that everyone deserves decent shelter, and with that foundation, people can build strength, stability, and self-reliance. Habitat’s mission expresses it well:  “Seeking to put God’s love into action Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.”
Each year for over thirty years, President and Mrs. Carter have spent a week of their lives putting their faith into action, building alongside families in need of decent shelter in the U.S. and abroad. Last month I joined them in Edmonton, Canada for this year’s Carter Work Project, helping 150 families throughout Canada build and improve places they can call home.  (And while President Carter was hospitalized on Thursday of that week because of dehydration, he made a deal with the hospital that he would stay for observation overnight only if he could get out by 6:00 am Friday morning to be present for Devotions on the build site.) At the opening event, President Carter said, “Habitat for Humanity is "the best way we've ever found to show our Christian faith and practice."
Saint Teresa of Avila is quoted as saying:
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ's compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”
How is Christ calling you to serve others?
I’m leading a small group to India in November (Nov. 11- 19) to build a simple dwelling there for a family. Perhaps that could be your call. (If you are interested in learning more, check this out: ). Or perhaps your call is service at A.C.T.S., providing warm meals to those who might otherwise go without. You do not need to go to foreign lands to be Jesus Christ’s hands and feet. Be still and listen to His call.